Saturday, June 28, 2008

More Visitors!

May and June were big months for visitors to Copenhagen...Mom, Dad, Jenny, and now Cara and Lizzie! Cara is a fellow Deac who now lives and teaches in G-vegas (aka Greenville, South Carolina) and Lizzie is a friend of hers who I had the pleasure of meeting on their Scandinavian adventure.After a slight delay due to a canceled fligth from Greenville to DC, they arrived on a Saturday afternoon and we were off to explore the city. Copenhagen has a City Bike service where you can "borrow" bikes from stands all through the city. They're not the grandest bikes, but they are free and as you can see from above, Cara and Lizzie really got the hang of it!

After a delicious morning brunch along the Lakes, Cara and Lizzie headed to Nyhavn for a gorgeous canal cruise where I met them after church. On Monday, Cara and Lizzie headed off to Norway for some fjun in the fjords.
My fun house guests returned late Friday night, and we had Saturday to explore the city some more....and what trip to Copenhagen is complete without a trip to Tivoli!!!

Danish Showers!

The typical Danish shower involves on and off rain for most of the day...but I'm refering to baby showers! This one was for my good friend Nikki who is due at the end of July and her friend Anamette who is due any day now. Nikki's office is quite international, and no one except Americans, British, and Australians have baby showers so most of the girls were very intreagued for what the afternoon events would be, and Nikki certainly didn't dissapoint. We had the party in the garden of Nikki's apartment to enjoy the gorgeous day (warmest temparature of the summer, probably aboout 85). There was plently of freshfruit, homemade cupcakes and some delicious Danish pasteries. And what shower would be complete without games??! We all brought baby pictures of ourselves and then saw who could determine who was who correctly. For the other game we each got toiletpaper and tried to guess how long of a piece was needed to fit around our mom-to-be's bellies.














Good luck Anamette and Nikki...you'll both be fantastic mothers!!!

Kubb

Kubb is a Swedish lawn game, also called Viking Chess, that is super fun to play on the long summer days we're experiencing now. You play Kubb by dividing into two teams on a rectangular field. Each team places 5 blocks (kubbs) in front of them and the king pin is placed in the middle of the field. Players then toss stickes trying to knock down the other players kubbs. Once you knock down a kubb, the other team tosses it across the field and wherever it lands is your team's new baseline until the other team can knock down one of your kubbs. After you have knocked over all 5 kubbs, you then go for the King pin...whichever team knocks down the King wins...but if you knock it down before knocking down all the kubbs, you automatically lose.
A fabulous night spent with good friends like Cecilia and Gustavo.

JenJen comes to Copenhagen!

Jenny and I have been friends for so long that we can't even remember exactly how long we have been friends. I think since 1st grade...but it may have been kindergarden. Jen lives in Chicago and is dating a great guy named Jannick who just happens to be Danish. They were in town for a few weeks last month and it was fantastic to finally meet Jannick and to see Jenny again. Jannick went to a wedding one weekend, so I had Jen all to myself. We caught up on life, reminised about a lot of our favorite stories from growing up, and we biked all over Copenhagen. Who would have throught that two girls from the suburbs of Chicago would end up hanging out in Copenhagend 24 years later?! And lucky me, they're coming back in a few months!!!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bob travels across the Pond!

When we got back from Prague, Mom entertained herself while I worked. She went to the Fredericsborg Castle, Louisiana Museum, and even got pretty good at biking around Copenhagen. Then we were joined by Bob who bravely made his first trip overseas alone. He did very well, except never quite got over his jet lag.

Last year Absolut Ice Bar opened in Copenhagen. There are a few of these bars around the world and I'd been wanting to try it out - my parents were game, so off we were. First you get decked out in insulated parkas, gloves, and boots. Then they lead you into the bar which is entirely made of ice from somewhere in Sweden, north of the Arctic Circle. And when I say everything I mean everything....bar, glasses, chairs, tables, walls, etc.










Nikki's mom was also in town (all the way from Sydney), so we all headed to Klubben one night for A LOT of authentic Danish food and many laughs. Grant subjected Bob to the Danish tradition of Gammel Dansk, which literally means old Danish and is bitters/schnaps which is quite pungent.
There is a Scandinavian shop in the town my parent's live in and the owner instructed them to have a hot dog from one of the many stands around town...so we headed to one in Kongens Nytorv, the King's Square.








Nyhavn and a Canal Tour










The Beach


Tivoli


After making our way around Copenhagen, we rented a car and headed south for a few days to M√łns Klint...the white cliffs of Denmark. The small towns we passed through along the was were cute and quaint, the cliffs were breathtaking, and the forests were gorgeous.






























There is a tradition in Denmark where if you turn 30 and are not married, they put a huge peppermill outside of your house. We passed by one such celebration on my 29th birthday, so I hopped out and we took a picture.
Had a great time with you Mom and Dad...you're welcome back anytime!!!

Mother's Day in Prague

My parents have been planning their trip to Denmark for awhile now and the time finally arrived. My mom came in first and after a few days in Copenhagen we headed to the Czech Republic.
We enjoyed some absolutely gorgeous weather during our 4 days in Prague. I had been to Prague about 5 years earlier and it was just as fantastic the second time around! We spent our days wandering around the the historic streets and quaint squares.
Here's mom in front of St. Vitas Cathedral. We also went to Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge, National Theater, Old Town Square, the Mucha Museum, and more.

My mom's family is from the Czech Republic - her grandfather and grandmother grew up in small towns in the Czech countryside and came to the US when they were young adults. We got up early and headed to the train station for the first train headed east. vWe had to change trains in a town called Pardubice. Unfortuntely our first train was late so we missed the connection and were stuck in Pardubice for 2 hours. We hit the streets...and shops. I was looking for shoes, but didn't find anything. The city, shops, and people were a little "behind the times" and I felt like I had been transported back to the early 80s.

Finally it was time for our train. There were 2 trains leaving from the same track at the same time. I doublechecked to make sure we were on the right one...or so I thought! After a few stops I noticed that we were going in the wrong direction...oops! So we got off and then my mom thought she saw a train headed back to Pardubice about to leave so we ran to get on. This was also the wrong train! Good thing we had all day and no agenda...plus it was a gorgeous day and the Czech countryside was gorgeous.


The second time we got off the wrong train we found ourselves in an incredibly small town where almost no one spoke English. Too bad my mom didn't try and learn Czech from her grandmother when she was growing up! After much hand gesturing I was able to find out that it would be another few hours before a train went through, so we got a cab, something we should have done in the first place!

We finally made it to Hlisnko and had a great lunch in the town square!!!
Not too much was open in the town...which was strange for a Saturday afternoon. But we found the exhibit on old houses, which were probably similar to the ones our ancestors lived in. We walked around and got a flavor for the town before heading back to Prague.
I haven't spent Mother's Day with my mom in a lot of years...how special to be able to spend it with her in Prague!

Quick trip to....China

Who goes to China for only a couple days....crazy people like me! I had a workshop to host in Shenzhen and things were a little hectic at work so the original plan was to fly in, do a workshop for two days and then fly out - stupid plan, and thankfully I didn't stick to it.

Two coworkers and I flew into Hong Kong, which is a fabulous airport, one of the best I have ever been in. We hired a car to drive us from the airport to Shenzhen, about a 40min drive which included crossing the border into China. When we got to the border there was a toll booth-like setup (similar to crossing the border in Mexico) where our driver gave the immigration person our documents and passports and then we headed on through. I was shocked at how easy it was....well, that was just step 1. Step 2 started with us stopping at a run down building which was the real border inspection/immigration. We made it through to the otherside, but found ourselves without a car or driver and in the midst of hundreds of Chinese people. Later I found out that this was the "plan" all along as the drivers don't have lisences to go between Hong Kong and China. Two bus rides later and we had made it to our hotel, the Shangri-La, which was quite nice.
Shenzhen is a former fishing village that is now one of the fastest growing cities in China. It is a financial and port city. I didn't have any time for sightseeing so I really can't comment on it, but my impression was that it was extremely busy and very population dense. We went to the same restaurant both days for lunch for dim sum which was an aventure! You know how in some Mexican restaurants they have a guy making fresh tortilla (mmm Rio!)...well, here they had a guy making rice noodles! We had some interesting dishes, including spicy jellyfish, pork knuckles and chicken feet. I'll all about tasting the local cuisine...and I did taste the jellyfish...but pork knuckles and chicken feet were out of the question.
I decided to stay 4 days in Hong Kong with my friend Monica. She was attending the meeting also and we headed back to Hong Kong together via the train that runs between Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Over 150,000 people cross the border every DAY! Crazy! First you go through Chinese immigration, then you walk across the Shenzhen River which means you are crossing from mainland China to Hong Kong, and then go through Hong Kong immigration. Finally you get on the train and about 30min later you are in downtown Hong Kong.
Monica and her husband Rich live (or should I say lived, they just moved to a new apartment last week) in an apartment on Hong Kong island with a fantastic balcony that overlooks the ocean. I tegged along and went into work with them on Thursday and Friday at theMaersk office which is in Kowloon which is a penninsula that is part of mainland China across from Hong Kong island. Each night we went out to explore different parts of the city...

One night we hit Lan Kwai Fong which is a collection of small streets lined with bars and restaurants. Given that the weather is gererally pretty warm in Hong Kong, most of the places have open store fronts and people pour out into the streets. The later it gets, the harder it is to make your way around as it is absolutely packed with people, lots of them being expats.
I highly reccomend a chicken gyro from Ebaneezers (an infamous kabob place in Lan Kwai Fong)!

Every night at 8 there is a light show, set to music, over the Victoria Harbor. There are huge, modern skyscrapers on each side of the harbor (Kowloon and Hong Kong island) and they've got lasers and lights alternating between the sides. They announce the buildings as they go along and even the harbor boats get into the show with multiple flashing lights. Quite a show!

I was in town for a typhoon!There are 4 levels of danger: 1 is a lot of rain and wind. 3 is rain and wind and you're advised not to go outside. 7 is seek shelter immediately and 10 is get to the emergency areas. It got up to level 3...which was more than enough wind and rain for me.

Monica and me on the Star Ferry, the famous ferry service that crosses Victoria Harbor, connecting Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.

Hong Kong Airport does a really cool (and quite efficient I might add) service where they have a couple different train stations on Hong Kong Island where you can fully check in up to 24hr before your flight - super convienent for tourists as many of the flights leave late at night. It looks just like an airport terminal and their are airport employees who check your bags and give you your bording passes. Then you just hop on the train and head to your gate once you get to the airport. And with that is was back to Denmark after a great week in China and Hong Kong!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Easter in Rome

Spring is the season for holidays in Denmark and Easter kicks everything off with a five day weekend. Katie and I decided we needed to go somewhere where the sun would be shining, the weather would be a little warmer, the plane ride wasn't too long, and a place neither of us had been before. So we decided on Rome and booked it...only to realize a few days later that we were headed to Rome on Easter weekend -- typical tourists!!

On day one we walked all over Rome....Villa Borghese, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain (where we of course tossed coins), and plenty of beautiful piazzas and churches


Day two we headed to the Vatican and took a tour of the museums and Sistine Chapel. Sadly no pictures allowed in the Sistine Chapel...it was breathtaking.


Though no pictures were allowed in the Sistine Chapel, there were some pretty amazing other ceilings in the museums.

Okay, now for the HIGHLIGHT of the trip. I think I should be a little ashamed to say this as I was in Rome , and it was a magnificent city. But the hightlight was that we stumbled upon this amazing little bar that was showing the NCAA tournament...and not just the tournament, opening weekend of the tournament. As I only got to see one of the final games last year, I was thrilled to get to see many back to back to back games! We ended up going back 3 nights in a row and met lots of fun people. I tried to capture the "big screen" but it didn't photograph well, trust me, it was great!
Day three we took a tour of the Colosseum, Panteon, Campo de Fiori, and Roman Forum.





Remember how I said we chose Rome partly because we were hoping to get away from the rain...well, all of Europe was under rain clouds for most of Easter weekend so we spent a lot of time under umbrellas, wading through puddles, and.....


.....enjoying the great food and coffee : )